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Hospital Safety: Communication is Key

Hospital Safety: Communication is Key

By Heidi Mix, RN, MS


Research shows that when hospitalized patients are more actively involved with their care, they tend to get better results. Here are some steps that you, your family members and friends can take to help make your hospital stay a safe and positive experience.


Clear, accurate communication

Communication is the most important aid to patient safety. This begins by ensuring that hospital caregivers have accurate information about your medical history and your current condition, current medications, and drug allergies. This can help prevent errors and lower the risk of accidental injuries during your hospital stay.


Check your hospital wristband and make sure that your name and allergies are accurate. Hospital staff members are supposed to check your wristband each time they give you medicine, take a blood sample, or perform a test or procedure. If someone neglects to check your wristband, speak up and tell them your name and your allergies.


Ask questions

Questions are a good way to exchange information with your caregivers. Ask questions whenever you are unclear about anything or if you are uncertain about why something is being done. When you actively participate this way during your hospitalization, you are more aware of treatment choices and possible complications.


Know your caregivers

All hospital caregivers you interact with should always introduce themselves to you and explain their roles before they perform their duties. If someone does not do this, you should speak up and ask who they are and what they are going to do.


Know the name of the physician who is in change of your care during your hospital stay. This information is often written on a white board in your room. If it is not, then request that it be written so you have it available to you at all times.


To minimize the chance of conflicting orders, have one doctor coordinate your treatment plan. Be actively involved with this process and ask questions if you do not understand the terminology being used.


Reduce the chance for medication errors

Make a list of all drugs you are currently taking, carry it with you at all times in your purse or wallet, and be sure to bring it with you to the hospital. This list should include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication, vitamins, and herbal remedies.


Review this list with your hospital caregivers to make sure that there is clear understanding of the names of your medications, the dose, and the times of day you take your medications when you are at home. Be sure to tell your doctor and nurses if you have any allergies or have had previous reactions to food, drugs, or latex. And if your doctor prescribes new medications, ask for an explanation of what they are, what they do, when they are given, and what their side effects are.


Bring a buddy

Appoint a companion to be with you in the hospital. It can be useful to have a relative or friend on hand to help you assert your needs and preferences, articulate your questions, and write down the answers. This person can also advocate for you if a problem arises.


Finally, if English is not your primary language, or if you are deaf or hearing impaired, please ask for an interpreter. Interactive communication and clear understanding among patients, families, and caregivers is critical to providing safe patient care.


Heidi Mix is chief patient safety officer at Cayuga Medical Center. She can be reached at (607) 274-4436.





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